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By 2040, trucks should save 90 percent CO₂

The end of combustion engines for cars has been decided, now trucks and buses are to follow suit. The EU Commission has presented a strict timetable for this up to 2040. Here the details.

The EU wants to become climate-neutral by 2050. Until then, all branches of industry, business and society should only emit CO2, which is then bound again and does not come from fossil fuels. The focus of implementation is on the transport sector. It accounts for around a quarter of all European CO2 emissions. According to the EU Commission, trucks and buses alone cause more than six percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Germany - and the trend is rising.

But unlike in the car sector, alternative drive systems for trucks and buses are still the absolute exception (in the picture gallery, the electric E-Actros Long Haul). Currently, 99 percent of all heavy-duty commercial vehicles in the EU are powered by internal combustion engines, i.e. mostly with diesel or other fossil fuels. By 2040, newly registered models should emit 90 percent less CO2 than in the pre-corona year 2019. Technically, this will not be possible with a combustion engine.

New city buses should be electric from 2030

The EU Commission is even clearer in its proposal. For newly registered buses in urban transport, she is calling for a zero-emissions rule from 2030. The fleets are therefore to be electrified. However, the price difference between conventional and battery-electric buses and trucks is much larger than on the car market. The modern alternatives often cost two to two and a half times as much. An enormous burden for the transport companies.

"For us to reach our climate and zero-pollution goals, all parts of the transport sector must actively participate," says Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans. "With the Commission proposal, we ensure that new trucks are less polluting and that more zero-emission buses drive through our cities."

45 percent fewer emissions from 2030

In order to implement these ambitious goals, the EU Commission is proposing the gradual introduction of stricter CO₂ limits. In the same way as in the passenger car sector, the emissions during vehicle production as well as those over the entire life cycle are evaluated. As early as 2030, all newly registered heavy commercial vehicles should emit 45 percent less carbon dioxide than in the reference year 2019.

By 2035, the CO₂ reduction should be 65 percent. As a reminder: From this year there will be no more new combustion cars in Europe. By 2040 at the latest, this should also apply to trucks and buses. Then heavy commercial vehicles will have to save 90 percent CO₂ compared to 2019.

EU is the market leader in truck and bus production

The EU Commission also sees the world's strictest rules for heavy goods traffic as an opportunity for Europe as a location. After all, the EU is the market leader in the manufacture of trucks and buses and must secure this position for the future.

In addition, the transport industry is a key sector when it comes to implementing the European "Green Deal" - i.e. the promised climate neutrality by 2050. Europe wants to be the first continent to achieve this. Those responsible are planning a third of the seven-year EU budget of 1.8 trillion euros for this.

Higher emissions than air and sea transport

Heavy-duty vehicle emissions have increased every year since 2014 except 2020 (COVID-19 pandemic). This is mainly due to more and more consumer and production goods being transported by road. In 2019, emissions from freight transport were 44 percent higher than those from air transport and 37 percent higher than those from maritime transport.

In order to electrify truck traffic as well, investments in charging and refueling infrastructure must be made today, according to the EU Commission. Charging and refueling points are to be installed at regular intervals, especially on large motorways - every 60 kilometers for charging electric vehicles and every 150 kilometers for refueling with hydrogen.


The EU Commission has already decided to phase out combustion engines for cars. She proposes a similarly strict plan for heavy commercial vehicles and buses. By 2040, newly registered vehicles should emit 90 percent less CO₂ than in 2019. Technically, this can no longer be managed with a combustion engine. Electric drive alternatives are still rare in the heavy-duty sector.


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